HBO is broadcasting a 7 part miniseries about the life of John Adams. We recorded parts I and II and watched them last night. I'm not usually one to rave about movies, but I have to say this series has been excellent so far.
The series is bringing history to life, and even though we know how things turn out we can't wait to watch the next episode. I felt like I was getting to know the founders of our country, seeing their struggles that and the difficulties of the times. John Adams was a lawyer who believed in the rule of law. It wasn't until the Crown's crushing regulations against Massachussets that he signed on to the cause of fighting for independence. When he did sign on, he did so quite fully.
When he met Benjamin Frankin in Philadelphia, Franklin cautioned him against moving too quickly or insulting his opposition. George Washington spoke of his duty and we see just how enormous was his burden, with a lack of weapons, ammo and tents for his dwindling troops. The quiet Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, carefully choosing each word. Ben Franklin edited the document, replacing "sacred" with "self evident" because it sounded like it was coming from the puplpit. (Not, as some would have us believe, because he didn't believe in God). Thomas Jefferson abhored slavery which was apparent in the draft of the declaration. Jefferson again edited the wording, noting that the southern colonies would not go along with emancipation. That battle would have to be fought another day.
They even had pansy-liberals back then. Rutledge ended up on the right side saying "We know which way the wind blows." John Dickenson, a Quaker from Pennsylvania, feared the consequences of a war, but had the grace to be absent during the critical vote to declare independence.
One thing that struck me is just how spoiled we all are today. There was a scene where Abigail Adams and the children were home alone while John Adams was in Philadelphia. There was a small pox outbreak and Abigail had to make a decision to be vaccinated against the disease. She took a chance, knowing that either way she and her children could die. I don't want to give it away, but I will say that I plan to show my kids that scene so they can see how good they have it.
We also see Abigail's counsel to her husband, and that the rights of women and slaves were important to people back then. But they could only fight one cause at a time. In order to grant rights to anybody, they first needed to win independence from Britain.
Part III will be aired Sunday night. Ben Franklin and John Adams are off to France on a diplomatic mission, attempting to drum up support for the struggling army. (Much to Abigail's chagrin.)
This series is a refreshing reminder of what our country is all about, and the extreme sacrificies of so many, made so long ago for the freedoms we hold dear. For those sacrifices we should all be grateful.